Duke Energy's Cliffside Steam Station, from an archive photo from 2011. Image courtesy of Duke Energy.

Press release from the N.C. Department of Natural Resources:

RALEIGH State regulators have cited Duke Energy for deficiencies at dams at two coal ash basins at the Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford County and have notified the company to provide plans for repairing the dams.

Staff with the state’s Dam Safety Program noted the deficiencies at the Cliffside Steam Station when they inspected dams at the Cleveland County facility on March 1 and March 4. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued Duke Energy notice of deficiency letters for the two dams late Wednesday afternoon.

The dam inspections were conducted as part of the department’s statewide investigation of all Duke Energy’s coal ash facilities in the wake of last month’s coal ash spill in Eden. The coal ash spill was caused by a ruptured stormwater pipe running beneath a coal ash pond at the Dan River Steam Station.

“We are investigating all aspects of the infrastructure used at these coal ash facilities, including the structural integrity of pipes and dams in and around the impoundments,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “We will take appropriate action to enforce the laws and protect public health and the environment to prevent another coal ash spill like the one that happened in Eden.”

The state considers both of the dams at the Cliffside Steam Station as “high hazard dams” because a dam failure could release coal ash stored behind the dam and result in significant environmental damage to the Broad River, the letter states.

DENR’s citations for the two dams directed Duke Energy to make repairs in the following areas:

  • One of the corrugated metal spillway pipes the state agency inspected has deteriorated to the point that a Duke representative documented increased flow during a routine internal inspection. This issue was addressed earlier this week when officials used sandbags, PVC pipe and tanks to collect the flow and transport it to an ash pond onsite. Officials are working on a permanent solution.
  • A lack of grass cover growing along the crest of the dam, which would cause erosion. State officials directed Duke Energy to periodically apply seed and appropriate soil amendments to the dam embankment.
  • Inappropriate vegetation such as trees and bushes growing on the dam that could lead to internal erosion and cause the dam to fail after heavy rainfall. DENR directs Duke Energy to remove this vegetation and place grass cover on the dam.

In the letter, DENR directs Duke Energy to hire a registered professional engineer to produce a plan for repairs to the dams within 10 days. If action is not taken to address the repairs by April 7, DENR can take appropriate enforcement action, the letter states.

The notice of deficiency letters have been posted to DENR’s “Dan River Spill” web page and are the top two items under the Enforcement Actions section. The Dan River Spill page can be found at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/guest/dan-river-spill.

Cleanup continues at site of Dan River spill

Officials have removed the coal ash deposit identified from the Dan River near the 48-inch stormwater outfall where the spill occurred last month. The coal ash was vacuumed from the river, moved into tanker trucks and transported to an onsite ash pond. Officials are now turning their attention to removing other coal ash deposits regulators have identified that include an area just above the dam for the Danville, Va. water treatment facility.

Data collected thus far by regulatory agencies is being used to develop a model to demonstrate how ash is likely to move through the river over the long term so it can be better identified and removed.

Other developments

Duke Energy submitted a $500 payment for a penalty associated with a mercury discharge that exceeded interim limits stipulated while the company is constructing an improved discharge system at their Mayo Steam Electric Plant in Person County. Limits established during this construction phase require that mercury discharges not exceed a monthly average of 0.0037 pounds per day. Data from sample collections in January yielded a monthly average of 0.0044 pounds per day. The fine is stipulated in a June 2012 special order by consent agreement between the department and Duke Energy associated with the construction of the new treatment system. As such, the company sent the penalty amount without the need for other enforcement actions.

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Wmforo. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at [email protected].

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  1. As someone who delivered electrical parts to the crews while this plant was being built. I was not surprised at the most recent revelations. It was so very obvious, during construction, what was really happening at Cliffside.